May 19, 1999
The Rapid City Journal grants permission for use of 1958-59 news stories on Nike sites on private web pages.
Peggy Sagen, Editor
For nearly three weeks, men of the second missile battalion
stationed in Rapid City were subject to the same tense atmosphere that prevails at
schools during final examination time.
Three weeks ago, crews from the Nike-Ajax installations protecting Ellsworth Air Force Base travelled to New Mexicofor assembly of missiles that would be fired later. Two weeks ago, two batteries arrived at the Red Canyon, N. M. firing grounds for the first round of shooting, scoring five kills and one hit. Last week the remaining two batteries conducted their firing, scoring six kills to record a 1000 firing average for the Rapid City outfit.
Because this was "test time," atmosphere was tense. Moreover, equipment kept breaking down – analagous to a pupil breaking his pencil point each time he tried towrite an answer to a time-rated question.
Excerpts of the log (with unofficial times) taken Wednesday and Thursday, may give an idea just how frustrating Nike firing practice at Red Canyon was.
Wednesday – 8:30 a.m. – Men have been at their stations for about three hours, but both Nike "sets" are inoperative and turned over to Red Canyon "permanent" crews for fixing.
10:30 a.m. – D battery equipment is returned to the second missile battalion.
10:40 a.m. – D battery returns the "set" to the permanent party because a generator fails again.
11:10 a.m. – D battery receives its equipment again and is given a 15-minute status to begin a pre-firing exercise.
1:45 p.m. – D battery has completed checking its equipment and is entering the pre-firing exercise.
2:30 p.m. – D battery's generator fails two minutes before the end of the pre-firing exercise.
2:55 p.m. – D battery receives the "set" back from the permanent party and starts the pre-firing routine all over again.
3:03 p.m. – D battery completes the pre-firing exercise.
(It took from early mourning to mid afternoon to complete a 15-minute exercise because of equipment failure.)
6:12 p.m. – Battle stations for D battery for firing of two Nike missiles within about a minute and a half of each other.
6:40 p.m. – Two radio controlled drones are circling and D
battery is ready to fire.
7:18 p.m. – The safety officer calls a cease fire for D battery because one of the two drones has iced up and fallen.
(Until this time, 25 drones, costing $3,100 each have been launched Wednesday and 48 more are on hand to complete firing for the day. Some drones are recovered.)
8:12 p.m. – A fuse in D battery's equipment melted and a cease fire was called when the drones were approaching the firing zone.
8:24 p.m. – The fuse has been replaced and D battery is ready to fire.
8:34 p.m. – D battery fires two Mikes and scores two hits. After three days at Red Canyon, the Rapid City group has finally fired some missiles.
8:58 p.m. – A battery is at battle stations, ready for targets to fire two missiles.
9:20 p.m. – A circling drone target iced up and fell, putting A battery back on 5-minute preparedness status.
(At this point, Col. Raymond Rounds, commanding officer, said: "This is like going into the sixth inning of a ho-hitter. I've never been ready for shooting so often without actually firing.")
9:25 p.m. – Another RCAT drone has been launched for A battery and the group prepares for firing.
9:42 p.m. – A battery is given the "battle station" command.
9:47 p.m. – A battery is given the signal to fire at the proper time and three minutes later knocks both RCATs from the sky.
Thursday – 12:58 a.m. – Both A and B batteries have returned to their "sets" after leaving them shut down for two hours and will fire one missile each at the same time.
1:15 a.m. – A battery has power failure.
1:20 a.m. – A generator supplying power to D battery fails.
1:22 a.m. – A battery, having corrected its power failure earlier and finds that acquisition radar has a bad tube.
1:29 a.m. – A battery has corrected the trouble and is locked on its target.
1:31 a.m. – D battery gets a "cease fire" command because a generator at the launcher area has failed.
1:34 a.m. – A battery, which has been waiting for D battery to fix equipment, is
out of action again when acquisition radar begins acting up.
1:37 a.m. – D battery reports it is back in action and two minutes later notifies the command post that the power supply to the missile tracking radar has failed. In the meantime, A battery reports it is back in action.
1:45 to 1:47 a.m. – A battery has completed safety checks, reports it is ready to engage the target and its radar is "locked on" the drone.
1:55 a.m. – D battery is back in action and both teams prepare to fire at two incoming drones.
1:56 a.m. – One of the two RCATs that have been circling drops. RCAT launchers report that only several night-type drones are left. Those used for night firing have lights so radar can track the drones immediately after launching.
2:05 a.m. – The second RCAT falls to earth, leaving no targets although both batteries are ready to fire.
2:18 a.m. – One RCAT has been launched and is circling and both batteries are still standing by, waiting to fire.
2:29 a.m. – D battery reports equipment trouble with its missile tracking radar.
(Col. Rounds asks the safety officer for permission for one battery to fire. One battery was ready and there was one RCAT circling. Permission is denied – the safety officer says both batteries have to fire together as part of the exercise in choosing primary and secondary targets.)
2:32 a.m. – Both batteries are operative and both targets are still in the air. RCATs are flying on the firing course.
2:34 a.m. – Both batteries fire.
After firing, A and B batteries entered into a post-fire procedure that consumed about 45 minutes, including time to secure the "sets."
At about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, the official record was read and the safety officer confirmed that both batteries got "kills."
Later the same morning, crews checked over equipment, dismantled a spare missile, and repainted launcher equipment seared by the intense heat.
On Friday the Rapid City battalion returned to Fort Bliss, Tex., about 167 miles to the south and started back home on Sunday.